Many United Staters are aware of the obesity epidemic that is sweeping our nation. According to the NCHS Data Brief, between the years of 2011-2014, 36% of adults and 17% of children were obese. Percentages that include those overweight are almost double of the above percentages. And while common sense might dictate that we make healthier choices in eating, rates of obesity continue to climb.
In my waking life, I observe various reasons why this occurs. First off, fast food and processed fare, whether Twinkies or hot dogs, are cheaper. Our economy ails, and many people cannot afford to feed themselves healthy food. And if someone is used to eating cheaper, unhealthy foods… certainly a sense of taste is developed, wherein that person enjoys that food.
Of course, obesity does not only affect the poor. Plenty of people who can afford healthier food, choose not to eat it. I suppose this is because they prefer the taste of unhealthy food. Or maybe food provides emotional comfort in times of stress. The feeling of a full stomach is pleasantly satisfying.
Many people are crippled by this desire for “tasty” food. While many know intellectually that they should lose weight, or even if they want to lose weight, they cannot. Eating is a habitual process, and it is difficult to kick, as is smoking or drinking. It is not easy.
Certainly within the past couple of years, New York City has made efforts to publicly advertise the benefits of healthier eating. Or rather, the dangers of poor eating. I think of those bus ads that show gobs of fat being poured out of a soda bottle, intended to communicate that sugary drinks are empty calories. And then there’s the slogan, “Your kids could be drinking themselves sick,” again decrying sugary beverages.
And for a few years now, fast food restaurants and corporate chains such as Applebee’s… they are legally required to post the amount of calories of all items on the menu. I personally really value this, since I look at the calories of everything I eat… or at least I used to, before I stopped eating garbage altogether. But I see so many people continuing to order single-person meals with four digits!
I’ll warrant, it’s extremely difficult to change eating habits. I remember myself… as a kid, I was stick-thin, and could eat whatever I wanted without consequence. But in my early twenties, I developed schizophrenia, and then was put on a medication that made me gain 90 pounds in two-and-a-half years. I got off that medication way too late. Just saying.
But then… one day, I decided to myself… This can’t happen anymore. I was definitely obese, and I knew that if I didn’t turn around, my life would change for the worse. Because growing up… I was used to being attractive and thin. And that whole identity that I had, would be gone.
So I up and joined the nearest Lucille Roberts in my area. They’re a women’s gym chain. The manager there was, and still is, an absolute saint. I had dozens and dozens of questions, and she answered them all freely and kindly. I changed what I ate, and I lost 50 pounds in six months.
All wasn’t rosy though. After those six months, I had the worst breakdown of my life, and was hospitalized for three months. But I remember… so vividly… returning to that gym after those three months:
“Hey Neesa, haven’t seen you in a long time! How’ve you been?”
“Eh… not too good. I was just in the hospital for three months. I just got out.”
The staff knew already about my schizophrenia, and were super supportive.
“How are you feeling now?”
“Ok.” I suddenly noticed the band-aid and cotton wad in the crook of my left elbow, from a blood test earlier that morning. I made a shameful gesture towards it.
“Don’t worry about it.” 🙂
I had spent three months solid in a unit, where I only went outside for fifteen minutes a day. Where I was restricted to a single unit, maybe two hallways. I’d sit in a chair and read a book, or watch TV, or journal, or eat, or go to group therapy… barely any movement.
I then got into the classroom, where I was about to start a class. Basic toning aerobics. Right when it started... it was the best fucking feeling in the world. I felt as if I was getting three months of backed up toxins and chemicals out of my system. It was as if I was finally having freedom to run around, after being in a jail cell for weeks on end. While my mental hospital stay was fortunately not like jail… it sort of was on the physical front.
If people were able to tap into this sense of physical freedom, transitioning from stagnation and obesity to physical freedom and energy… perhaps the challenge of weight loss would be more bravely approached. I will admit though… starting to work out when you are at a low level of fitness isn’t necessarily fun.
Instead of trying to “feel good,” or to “get the pain over with as quickly as possible” … look at it more like… I need to move my body. My body needs to be free. This weight is like a prison for my organs. My bones. Maybe even my soul. And when I work out… I’m breaking through these chains of this prison. And I will fight, because I am worth it.
Another thing is… patience. So often, we see magazines, where they say, “Lose 20 pounds in 10 days!” You know what I’m doing right now? I’m shaking my head, no. You are only supposed to lose 1-2 pounds a week. If you’re very heavy, you’ll lose more in the beginning if you go full force. But really… over time, this adds up. I lost 50 pounds in six months on this time trajectory.
I just want you to know, that you can lose the weight. The best thing to do is, once you make your decision, begin to surround yourself with people who support you in this goal. Don’t just go to any gym. Choose a gym where you love going to. Where the people and the classes are really cool. You can reach out online too. I personally found out about Beach Body workouts from a guy I went to college with, and now he’s my coach. (I’m not trying to plug any products here, but rather am sharing my story.)
I also find that… people who really care about my fitness, from the bottom of their hearts… they don’t charge me an arm and a leg for their counsel. In fact, I haven’t really paid anything to these supportive people, more than a gym membership fee or a few products here and there. These are the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with, once you decide to get your health up and running.
And also… the internet is amazing. You can reach out to people online too. Start small though. Join groups you like. Start responding to posts you like. You might start responding to the same posts as others. Then you have a common interest, and you can chat about it.
Again, patience. We want weight loss to happen overnight, but then we lament how fast the kids grew up. Let’s reverse this, shall we?